LOGAN—With one week left in the regular season of Mountain West football, very little is settled.
The Mountain Division’s best team will play the West Division’s best team for the conference championship, but the current scenario can be a bit confusing. There isn’t a team in either division that has clinched its spot.
The West has been narrowed down to two teams: San Diego State and Fresno State. The only way Fresno State gets into the championship game is if Fresno State wins and San Diego State loses. If both teams win, or both teams lose, the Aztecs will go.
As for the Mountain Division, Utah State, Boise State and Air Force are all in a three-way tie for the top spot. All three took turns picking wins up against each other: Utah State beat Air Force, Air Force beat Boise State and Boise State beat Utah State.
Here are the scenarios, broken down as simply as possible.
Scenario No. 1: Boise State, Air Force and Utah State all win.
If all three teams win, Air Force gets the bid. All three teams would have the same record, and while that may not seem completely fair, here is the reasoning: The tiebreaker goes to the team with the least number of division losses. Both of USU’s conference losses were in the Mountain Division, while Boise State and Air Force each have one loss in division and one out of division. Since Air Force beat Boise State head-to-head, the Falcons would get the berth.
Scenario No. 2: Boise State wins and Air Force loses.
If this happens, Boise State gets the bid, no matter what Utah State does. That is because the Broncos beat the Aggies head-to-head.
Scenario No. 3: Utah State wins and Boise State loses.
This is the only way the Aggies will go to the championship. The results of the Air Force game wouldn’t matter.
All of this goes down Friday. So, as head Coach Blake Anderson said Saturday night, USU fans need to become San Diego State fans and root for the Aztecs to beat the Broncos this week.
For the USU football team, there is only one thing they can control: getting a win at New Mexico.
“The scenarios are all crazy,” Anderson said. “Somebody has got to beat somebody, and somebody has got to lose. I think San Diego State is the only team that controls their own destiny.”
Part of the challenge will be rebounding from a disappointing loss where USU had a five-game win streak snapped at home to Wyoming on Saturday. Anderson said the worst thing his team can do is to let the loss get to them and play less than their best Saturday.
“We are definitely not satisfied,” Anderson said. “We just took one on the chin. We need to get back up, learn from it, dust off and move forward.”
The game will be at 11 a.m. Friday morning in Albuquerque. The Lobos are 3-8 overall and 1-6 in conference with the lone win coming against Wyoming.
There are some injuries USU will have to work around, especially on the offensive line. The other big question is starting quarterback Logan Bonner, who took some hits against Wyoming. Anderson said Bonner feels “terrible,” but was back at the practice facility Monday, ready to go.
“By the end of the week he’ll feel better,” Anderson said. “We’re battling with what we have on the O-line.”
New Mexico has had some real offensive struggles this season. Quarterback Terry Wilson was injured Oct. 9 at San Diego State and hasn’t played since. Backup Isaiah Chavez took the field in his place. Since that point, New Mexico has been throwing the ball much less, averaging less than 44 passing yards per game. The offensive focus has shifted to the run game.
“They’ve gone straight triple option,” Anderson said. “With kind of a pistol-I formation with a quarterback and a receiver in the backfield.”
Defensively, New Mexico gives up many more yards and points than their offense has been able to produce, but Anderson said it will be an unusual scheme to go up against.
While New Mexico’s record, stats and numbers look promising for Aggie fans, Anderson pointed out that his team needs to come prepared. New Mexico did beat Wyoming 14-3—the same Wyoming team that beat USU 44-17 in Logan less than a week ago.
“That is what they are capable of,” he said. “We just have to assume that they are going to play their best game. I think (New Mexico assistant coach) Rocky Long is the best defensive mind in football.”
The recent loss and end-of-season scenarios can cloud what Utah State football has accomplished. Before this season, USU was picked to finish near the bottom of the conference standings, and most predictors picked USU to win just three or four games. Anderson made it clear that no matter how the other conference games shake out this week, getting win No. 9 would be an accomplishment.
“We can only control us,” he said. “That’s where all our focus needs to be.”